Tahiti - French Polynesia & Cook Islands

Society Islands and Cook Islands

My first trip to Tahiti started in the capitol, Papeete. From here I caught a small cruise ship called the Paul Gauguin designed specifically to sail the shallow seas of Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific, effortlessly blending into the stunning natural beauty of the South Seas. This ship carries up to 332 passengers and 166 crew.

The ship sailed from Papeete to Huahine, Roratonga, Aitutaki, Bora Bora, Taha'a and Moorea. Each island was unique in some way, with Bora Bora having some of the largest lagoons in French Polynesia, to the flatness of Aitutaki and the jagged peaks of Moorea.

What an adventure - I swam in open lagoons with stingrays, sharks, mooray eels and tons of safer colorful and beautiful tropical fish. I snorkeled as well as walked on the lagoon floor on a helmet dive. I water-skied in the coves and lagoons of Bora Bora and Moorea. I kayaked the cove of Huahine and the lagoons around a motu off the island of Taha'a and Bora Bora. I hiked to waterfalls on Moorea and Tahiti and even took a road safari around the island of Aitutaki.

That's Bora Bora...oh and ME :-)

This was the first beach I saw in the South Pacific - amazing! This is the island of Huahine.

Another beach view of Huahine. On this beach we watched spear fisherman, kayakers, water-skiers and snorkelers.

This was what our ride back from the island of Aitutaki looked like - it looks okay from this angle, but from inside the boat it was like a roller-coaster ride!

Sunset at sea.

This was one of the excursions we took that included swimming with stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks.

I didn't have a waterproof camera so I took these of some of the other swimmers to show what I was swimming with.

A little different looking than the seagulls we see in North America, but certainly the same behavior - they were here to try to grab some of the fish we were feeding to the rays and sharks.

Black-tipped reef sharks.

This was just some of the tropical fish - these I had to swim thru to get back to our boat.

This was a beautiful day and what a view on our boat back from our trip of swimming with the stingrays and sharks.

This was one of the many hotel/resorts on the islands that had been closed either due to the cyclone that came thru the islands last year or a result of the economy.

Our second day on Bora Bora we had the opportunity to spend on one of the secluded beaches on one of the many motu's (motu is the name for small islands that surround the larger islands of the South Pacific - these islands can be so small as to have just one coconut tree or hundreds) that surrounds Bora Bora. What a beautiful spot!

A view of one of the peaks of Bora Bora from the motu we spend our second day on.

My best friend Dennis and I with a Bora Bora peak in the background.

As you can see...this was a GREAT place to be!

And I was loving it.

Still from the motu looking at Bora Bora.

Bora Bora...and me AGAIN.

Another great place to kayak (and dive and snorkel and ski and and and).

Who knew...we were on a boat heading back from the motu toward our ship and outrigger canoers follow our boat to ride our wake. It was very cool to watch. Sometimes there were as many as 4 outriggers riding our wakes.

Outrigger wake rider.

These ladies were part of the staff on the ship. There were as talented as they were beautiful. This night I volunteered to dance with them as part of their show...it was just for a couple of minutes and was great fun.

Another day on another wonderful motu. This was off the island of Taha'a which is a pretty small Society Island and one of the large producer of vanilla in the area.

What a scene...huh? This was a massage space set up on this small motu by the spa personnel off the ship...I was ready to volunteer to GIVE massages for the day just because the space looked so awesome!

This was another awesome place to kayak...I loved it!

French Polynesia's wet season is December and January so coming down here in February we were bound to get some rain...but also rewarded with a beautiful rainbow.

View from the ship of the shores of Taha'a.

Goodbye Taha'a

Underwater Helmet Dive (or is it me in an aquarium?).

Dennis and I walking underwater (too bad I didn't get any pictures of me walking on water the same day...I did go water-skiing right after this).

Dennis with the feeding tube to attract fishies.

My turn.

On this dive we were up close and personal with several stingrays and numerous type of fish...

not to mention a very large Mooray Eel (just shy of 6 feet long)

It was like swimming in an aquarium...this fish actually didn't mind me petting him...I didn't try this with the mooray eel.

I took a lecture on ship on how to identify the fish of the South Pacific...but don't ask me to name this one...

One of the many peaks on Moorea...and that's our little ship down in the cove there. This day we rented a car to explore the island.

Wild ginger.

This was on our hike around the agricultural school on Moorea...there were quite of few of these fellas...and they were pretty darn large!

All of these islands had various plantations of several tropical fruits and plants...lots and lots of pineapple, banana, papaya, bread fruit, avacado, mango, etc...

Moorea peak

This was a pretty cool hike to a waterfall on Moorea with our friend Stan whom we met on the ship.

This was another waterfall we hiked to on Tahiti.

Do I look more relaxed after 11 days in the South Pacific?

How about Dennis?

copyright protected - photos by Tom Whalen

Drop me an email Tom Whalen takeoff321@aol.com